San Thome Basilica or locally known as Santhome Church is in Mylapore in Chennai.
Here, you’ll discover the legendary past of Saint Thomas and the fascinating story behind this neo-gothic architectural masterpiece.
San Thome Basilica is one of the only three churches in the world that house the tombs of one of Christ’s original disciples. That’s right, you heard it here first! The other two are St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia, Spain. So, if you’re a history buff or a religious pilgrim, this is a must-visit destination.
Now, let’s talk about the architecture. The basilica is built in typical neo-gothic style, complete with enormous windows and tinted panes that’ll make your jaw drop. The stark white exterior will make you feel like you’ve just stepped into a fairytale castle, and the interior is no less impressive. Wooden pews, a sparkling chandelier, and several other hanging lights illuminate the nave and altar, creating an ethereal atmosphere.
But what makes San Thome Basilica so special isn’t just its stunning architecture, it’s the legend of Saint Thomas. As per the story, Saint Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, landed in Muziris (near Kodungallur in present-day Kerala) around 52 AD to spread the word of God in the Orient. He preached Christianity along the Malabar Coast for a decade before travelling towards the eastern shore. It’s said that he loved to spend time in the Mylapore area of Tamil Nadu, in a cave atop a small hillock, which is now named after his holiness.
The myth goes that on the top of this mound, now called St Thomas Mount, a lance pierced through his back and took his life. His remains are said to be lying underneath the San Thome Church today, which makes this a place of pilgrimage, especially for the Syrian Christians of India. That’s why the tomb of Saint Thomas is the highlight of this place. You’ll find it marked with a second tower, built when the church was renovated in 1893-96. Inside the church, a statue of Saint Thomas is displayed to be lying down in his final resting position, inside a glass case. The tomb is decorated with flowers and candles every day, along with Holy Water. It is kept inside a chapel, where the devotees can sit in peace and pay their respect.
But wait, there’s more! San Thome Church has a museum on its premises housing multiple memorabilia and other antique displays related to the life and work of Saint Thomas. You’ll find a display case holding the great apostle’s fingerprints. Yes, you read that right! His fingerprints! It is among the rarest of museum collections in all of India. The wall paintings depict the life, missionary work, and death of the saint, and the 2000-year-old lance that killed him is itself cased in and displayed as an artefact. Other than that, an episcopal chair, a piece of the saint’s bone, and a stone receptacle are also showcased. And, let’s not forget the rare and antique sundial, which has been brought here from the earlier site of his grave.
So, there you have it, folks! San Thome Basilica is a place of history, architecture, and legend. Whether you’re a religious pilgrim or just a curious traveller, this place will leave you in awe. So, what are you waiting for? Plan your trip now!